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Ledbetter, Huddie "Lead Belly"

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Biography

Huddie (pronouced HYEW-dee or HUGH-dee) William Ledbetter (January 23, 1888 – December 6, 1949) was an iconic American folk and blues musician, notable for his strong vocals, his virtuosity on the 12-string guitar, and the songbook of folk standards he introduced.

He is best known as Lead Belly or Leadbelly. Though many releases list him as “Leadbelly,” he himself spelled it “Lead Belly.” This is also the usage on his tombstone,[1][2] as well as of the Lead Belly Foundation.[3]

Although Lead Belly most commonly played the twelve string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion. In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad “John Hardy”, he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar. In other recordings he just sings while clapping his hands or stomping his foot.

The topics of Lead Belly’s music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel songs; blues songs about women, liquor and racism; and folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, sailors, cattle herding and dancing. He also wrote songs concerning the newsmakers of the day, such as President Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Jean Harlow, the Scottsboro Boys, and Howard Hughes.

In 2008, Lead Belly was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Born Huddie William Ledbetter on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, the youngest of two children to Sallie Brown and Wesley Ledbetter. He had an older sister named Australia.

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